Mole Creek Hotel hit by COVID exposure forcing shutdowns throughout the town

The Mole Creek Hotel, and (inset) publican Doug Westbrook. Pictures: File/Phillip Biggs
The Mole Creek Hotel, and (inset) publican Doug Westbrook. Pictures: File/Phillip Biggs

Mole Creek Hotel owner Doug Westbrook was not alerted his pub's close-contact exposure status for five days, now he has to shut its doors.

The popular country pub was listed on the Tasmanian government COVID exposure list on Sunday night, more than four days after the exposure occurred.

Mr Westbrook said he received an "anonymous" call on Sunday night from Public Health, followed by an email that listed an incorrect exposure time, and he thought the whole thing was a hoax.

During the period from initial exposure to the pub's listing, workers who were in the pub when it was exposed between 7pm and 8.30pm on December 22, had interacted with other staff members which led to six of his 13 staff needing to isolate.

Premier Peter Gutwein on Monday said the Public Health team and state government were doing "everything [they] possibly can" to let businesses know as soon as possible.


Mr Westbrook said, as a result of the four day notification timeframe, the pub would need to close until the end of the staff members' seven day isolation period on December 29.

"We'll probably lose about $15,000," he said.

"We're averaging from 120 to 150 meals a day, and we had a booking of 45 people scheduled, which you can pretty much double that for walk-ins."

Mr Westbrook said the pub had been having its best year in 14 years until borders opened which had since seen business "slow down".

He said none of his staff had tested positive since the exposure, and he expected to be back up and running at full capacity for the pub's scheduled New Year's celebrations.

Mole Creek has a population about 600 people, many of who attend or are associated with the pub. Mr Westbrook said when reviewing CCTV footage he noticed some pub regulars who he would need to contact.

The pub was also synonymous with the local, volunteer run pool.

Three of the pool's six committee members had been forced into isolation, and with 50 per cent of the staff unable to help out, the pool was closed indefinitely.

Swimming pool treasurer Sian Walters said the ramifications of COVID hitting a small place like Mole Creek were far more apparent than in larger centres.

Mr Gutwein said there was "no magic bullet" to ensuring positive COVID results were communicated to the community and sooner.

"We do everything we possibly can to contact a business if it's been determined to be a close contact," he said.

"What tends to happen though, for many cases for businesses by the time the test results come in, if we've got a work number to call or we've got the number of somebody that's a manager that might be on holidays, then it's difficult to contact them."

This story How a country pub's exposure to COVID impacts the whole town first appeared on The Examiner.